Column: Tribal issues have become partisan issues

"It was a rare sight that will become only more rare – elected officials opposing one of the state’s Indian tribes.

By a 4–0 vote Tuesday, the Pierce County Council expressed opposition to the Nisqually Tribe’s move to gain ownership of 514 acres of Fort Lewis.

It used to happen a lot more. The tribes were powerless and broke and were often pitted against interests that were neither. But profits from ever-expanding tribal casinos fuel their ability to fund campaigns and the political clout that comes with it.

As crass as it sounds, if the Nisqually Tribe wants more politicians to endorse its plans, then it really needs to ratchet up its political contributions. Ironically, it would be able to do that if it landed the Fort Lewis golf course property and put a casino there.

There is another issue at play in the Fort Lewis land case: Tribal issues have become partisan issues, with Democrats most likely to support tribal positions and Republicans most likely to oppose them. All four council votes against the Nisqually Tribe were Republicans. County Executive John Ladenburg, a Democrat, is supportive. The same tendency holds true in Olympia and in Congress.

While the tribes do not give exclusively to Democrats, they give predominantly to Democrats. They also give heavily to special committees controlled by legislative and party leaders. And when a blast of cash was needed to defend three state Supreme Court incumbents, the Puyallups and Tulalips gave $100,000 each."

Get the Story:
Peter Callaghan: Do donations from tribes affect politics? (The Tacoma News-Tribune 5/31)
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Another Story:
County opposes sale of Fort Lewis Golf Course (The Tacoma Daily Index 5/31)

Related Stories:
Nisqually Tribe seeks to acquire military property (5/17)
Nisqually Tribe's land transfer stirs debate (5/9)
Editorial: Respect tribal sovereignty in state (03/27)
Washington GOP tries to limit tribal donations (3/15)

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